STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA v. KAREN SEAGLE FOREMAN
SUPREME COURT OF NORTH CAROLINA
On 16 November 1996, defendant was arrested for driving while impaired (DWI), possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of cocaine. Defendant was subsequently indicted for the DWI charge. On 16 September 1997, defendant was found guilty of DWI in District Court, Craven County, and gave notice of appeal to the superior court. On 12 February 1997, defendant filed a motion to dismiss the charge because there was no probable cause sufficient to justify the stop of her vehicle or in the alternative, to suppress any evidence obtained from the stop of defendant’s vehicle. The trial court denied defendant’s motion to dismiss or to suppress, and defendant was tried before a jury at the 23 February 1998 Criminal Session of Superior Court, Craven County. The jury found defendant guilty of DWI. On 25 February 1998, the trial court, inter alia, sentenced defendant to a suspended sentence of sixty days in jail with unsupervised probation for two years and revoked her license for one year. Defendant appealed to the North Carolina Court of Appeals. On appeal, the Court of Appeals found no error. In support of its decision, the Court of Appeals concluded that it was not constitutionally permissible for an officer to stop a vehicle which had made a legal turn away from a posted DWI checkpoint.
Whether a legal turn away from a posted DWI checkpoint would justify an investigatory stop and whether it is constitutionally permissible?
When an officer observes conduct which leads him reasonably to believe that criminal conduct may be afoot, he may stop the suspicious person to make reasonable inquiries. In the instant case, the officer observed a “quick left turn” away from the checkpoint at the precise point where the driver of the vehicle would have first become aware of its presence. However, Officer Ipock did not stop defendant’s vehicle once it turned away from the checkpoint. In fact, we cannot conclude that Officer Ipock “stopped” defendant’s vehicle at any point. Defendant voluntarily parked in a residential driveway and remained hidden in the car until Officer Ipock approached the vehicle. Therefore, defendant was not “seized” by the police officer until at least that point. Based upon that series of incriminating circumstances, the Court concluded that the Court of Appeals correctly determined that Officer Ipock observed sufficient activity to raise a “reasonable and articulable suspicion of criminal activity.
There is no dispute that the DWI checkpoint in the present case met all the statutory requirements for an impaired driving checkpoint. The perimeters of the checkpoint were marked with signs stating that there was a DWI checkpoint ahead, and the signs were posted approximately one-tenth of a mile prior to the actual stop. The checkpoint was established with the intent to stop every vehicle briefly and to check for impaired drivers traveling on Neuse Boulevard within the vicinity of the checkpoint. Certainly, the purpose of any checkpoint and the above statute would be defeated if drivers had the option to “legally avoid,” ignore or circumvent the checkpoint by either electing to drive through without stopping or by turning away upon entering the checkpoint’s perimeters. Further, it is clear that the perimeters of the checkpoint or “the area in which checks are conducted” would include the area within which drivers may become aware of its presence by observation of any sign marking or giving notice of the checkpoint. Therefore, the Court held that it is reasonable and permissible for an officer to monitor a checkpoint’s entrance for vehicles whose drivers may be attempting to avoid the checkpoint, and it necessarily follows that an officer, in conjunction with the totality of the circumstances or the checkpoint plan, may pursue and stop a vehicle which has turned away from a checkpoint within its perimeters for reasonable inquiry to determine why the vehicle turned away.
These summaries are provided by the SRIS Law Group. They represent the firm’s unofficial views of the Justices’ opinions. The original opinions should be consulted for their authoritative content
The SRIS Law Group is a law firm with offices in Virginia, Maryland & Massachusetts. The law firm assists clients with criminal/traffic defense, family law, immigration, civil litigation, bankruptcy & military law. The law firm has Virginia offices in Fairfax County, Richmond, Virginia Beach, Loudoun County, Prince William County & Fredericksburg, Virginia. The Maryland offices are in Montgomery County & Baltimore. The Massachusetts offices are in Boston & Cambridge. The New York office is in New York City. The North Carolina Office is in Charlotte, NC which is in Mecklenburg County. The California office is in Orange County, CA.
The law firm has more than 11 offices in Virginia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, California, North Carolina & India to serve the clients of the SRIS Law Group.
Article from articlesbase.com